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Covers Uncovered – Mike Collins’ Nunja Leaps Into Action!

Every week, 2000 AD brings you the galaxy’s greatest artwork and 2000 AD Covers Uncovered takes you behind-the-scenes with the headline artists responsible for our top cover art – join bloggers Richard Bruton and Pete Wells as they uncover the greatest covers from 2000 AD!

Borag Thungg Earthlets and welcome to another Covers Uncovered! This week, it’s the return of Mike Collins on the cover of 2000 AD Prog 2226 – out on Wednesday 7th April from stores and the 2000 AD web shop.

Mike Collins has had a long and glorious career in comics, with work for Marvel UK, and both Marvel and DC in the US, all the way through to Doctor Who comics and the brilliant Apollo from SelfMadeHero. He’s also an in-demand storyboard artist for Doctor Who, Sherlock, Good Omens, Sex Education, His Dark Materials, and A Discovery Of Witches.

But he’s also been a presence in both the Galaxy’s Greatest and the Judge Dredd Megazine over the years, ever since his first strip, the Future Shock, Uncommon Sense in Prog 372 all the way back in 1984. Since then, he’s worked on Sláine, Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper, Hondo City Justice, .co-creating American Gothic with Ian Edginton and, more recently, was the artist on Judge Anderson: Undertow, in Progs 2077-2080.

Now he’s back with the James Peaty written Tharg’s 3Riller, Chorus And The Ring in 2000 AD Progs 2226-2228, where Battle Sister Evangelista is tasked with investigating the fate of the War-Pontiff for The Divine Chorus of Freedom. It’s a cracking bit of sci-fi done so well, and Mike’s art is a huge part of what makes it yet another Thrill-powered new 2000 AD strip!

So, over to Mike to give us the tale of covering the Nunja!

The very first images for the cover – Mike’s rough cover pitches – Fear The Nunja!

MIKE COLLINS: I haven’t done a cover for 2000 AD in years and thought that the ideas and imagery that James Peaty and I had conjoured up for this Tharg’s 3Riller would pop on the cover of the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic.

I pitched it to Tharg with the puntastic tagline Fear the Nunja which harked back to the beloved early inky fingers days of 2000 AD.

With Tharg’s beneficent assent, I came up with a couple of variations- either a full figure in mid-leap, or a tight posed torso shot, blades at the ready.

Tightening things up for Tharg’s approval!

Opting for the all-action version, the Beleguesian Benevolent Boss then set me to tightening up my rough, with that approved it was straight on to pencils.

Getting the cover into shape – rough pencils
That final pencil version

I did a little Photoshop tweaking I then printed the art out in blueline to ink in that now quaint brush & pen style on Bristol board.

The final inked version of Prog 2226’s cover

Once I had Tharg’s approval it was then off to fellow Cardiff artist Dylan Teague (you’ve heard of him) to render the piece in his glorious hues and await the trade dress and copy to make it a whole thang.

And finally, ready for action and given the colour treatment from Dylan Teague –
Mike Collins’ full cover to Prog 2226

And there you go, another scrotnig cover all ready to hit the shelves and fill up your digital devices! Thanks so much to Mike for grabbing time in between so many deadlines to send this over to us!

You can find more from Mike at his website, freakhousegraphics.com and follow him on Twitter.

More Ghafflebette covers uncovered coming your way next week, but for now, Splundig vur Thrigg and we’ll leave you with this classic Mike Collins cover…

Sláine by Mike Collins and Mark Farmer – 2000 AD Prog 493 (1986)
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2000 AD Covers Uncovered – Tom Foster on his ‘A Penitent Man’ cover

Every week, 2000 AD brings you the galaxy’s greatest artwork and 2000 AD Covers Uncovered takes you behind-the-scenes with the headline artists responsible for our top cover art – join bloggers Richard Bruton and Pete Wells as they uncover the greatest covers from 2000 AD!

This week, we’re chatting to artdroid extraordinaire Tom Foster about his cover to 2000 AD Prog 2225, introducing us to the new Judge Dredd storyline written by Ken Niemand and drawn by Foster – A Penitent Man.

Tom Foster’s come a long, long way since winning the 2013 2000 AD Art Portfolio Competition at Thought Bubble. His first 2000 AD work, off the back of his win, was the Tharg’s Terror Tale: Done Deal, written by Alec Worley and published in 2000 AD Prog 1886. His distinctive style was an immediate hit with 2000 AD fans and he’s gone on to co-create and illustrate the first Storm Warning series in the Judge Dredd Megazine, written by Leah Moore and John Reppion, as well as having his art on Dredd and Sinister Dexter.

And now, we get to see his first longer Dredd tale, as Old Joe is on the case of an ex-Judge back in MC-1 after serving his 20 on Titan. It’s got plenty of moody Dredd going on, plus we get to see Joe butting chins and badges against the SJS – looks like being a great one, and all with Tom’s cracking art.

Now, over to Tom for the skinny on his Prog 2225 cover –

TOM FOSTER: When I get a cover assignment, I generally like to give Tharg three options to choose from, in the hope that I can avoid incurring his wrath.

In this instance, The Mighty One had given me a proposed brief, so one of the options was already spoken for. It was to feature Dredd on his lawmaster, backdropped by an image of the erstewhile Judge Asher, undergoing the horrors of Titan surgery, superimposed over the Mega-City One skyline.

(He always feels like somebody’s watching him – And he has no privacy (ooh ooh)
– always with the up to the minute musical references!)

The second option was of an over-sized Dredd sitting in judgement over a tiny Asher, under the glare of a skull-shaped spotlight (representing the SJS)

(Watching you… watching me – more cutting-edge musical references there!)

Lastly, I went for a bit of an oblique one – diagrams of the surgery, in the style of creepy old hand-tinted plate illustrations. I didn’t think it was very likely that this one would get chosen but figured it would make for a bit of memorably weird fun if it were, so included it just in case.

(Dentistry on Titan – still easier to get than an NHS dentist in Britain!)

I mocked the first two up with 3D models in Daz 3D Studio, hand-drew the third and coloured all three in Photoshop.

Tharg picked the second one, so I started working up a pencil rough.

I used to use 3D models for just about everything, but now I only use them now and again, either for particularly complex images or for something like this, where the picture is so stripped down and simple that everything rests on the legitimacy of a few basic elements. It’s also pretty quick and easy to throw a 3D version together when it’s such an uncomplicated composition, particularly as I already had so many of the 3D elements already and just had to pose them. (Thanks, incidentally, to Alex Ronald for letting me use his Dredd helmet and pauldron models).

(A beautiful view of Alex Ronald’s helmet there
– seriously, Tom gives us a line like that and doesn’t expect smut?)

I don’t trace any of my 3D mock-ups anymore – now I try to draw everything from scratch, only using digital models or photos for reference. So I drew an A4 rough in pencil and sent it on to Tharg.

(So, they say you’ve turned over a new leaf? Chinny reckon says Dredd)

Tharg approved it, so I worked up an A3 finished pencil version below, but Tharg felt Dredd was looking a little old and craggalicious about the face, so I applied some Vaseline to my scanner and scanned it again. Of course not – I drew it properly, like a good boy, and got a nice little pat on the head.

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From there, I printed out a blueline copy and inked over it with a sable brush, using a bit of sponge for the texture effect of the spotlight beam.

(You can see why he got booted to Titan
– absolutely no idea giant Dredd is watching him, terrible Judge observational skills)

The colours seemed like a pretty straightforward proposition, given how much black was in the image, but it ended up taking quite a while to get them right. It can be tricky, when colouring a line drawing that relies so much on dramatic lighting, to judge just how realistic to make the lighting effects. It can either look very flat or totally inconsistent with the original drawing.

In the end, the key was in blowing out the colour as much as possible near the spotlight and only having richer, deeper colours towards the outskirts of the picture. It might seem like an obvious solution, but I’m quite thick – so that can make things more difficult.

At this stage, I was pretty happy that the cover was done, but, when I mocked it up with the logo and the rest of the trade dress, the black areas in the background started to look very empty and flat.  I think, when it’s just the picture, your brain just sort of ignores the shadowy background and focusses on the areas of detail – but once a bit of lettering gets involved, it interferes with that sort of tuning out process. So I put some texture in the background with a sort of red, spackly effect to match the rim lighting on Dredd’s helmet and pauldron.

(I am Joe, Judge of Mega-City One!)

This was another case of trying to avoid a photo-realistic lighting effect, in favour of something that would fit the line art style – so I kept it to basically spots of a single colour on black, rather than anything more graded. The biggest inspiration for the effect was the background in that bit in the opening titles of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, where he says “I am Adam, Prince of Eternia”. I always liked that look. To say nothing of Adam’s exceptional sense of dress.

That’s about it, really. I enjoyed this one a lot and feel like Dredd’s face came out pretty well. This is my first multi-part Dredd story, so I wanted it to have a dramatic signature image that summed up the story in the simplest possible terms. In that sense, I think this one works.

Thank you to Tom for giving us that look into the cover for his first Judge Dredd multi-parter. You can find both Tom’s cover and the start of his Dredd series, A Penitent Man, with the new 2000 AD Prog 2225 – it’s out on 31 March in newsagents, comic shops, and you can get it from the 2000 AD web shop.

And we all learned a new word too – Pauldron. It’s a component of plate armour that evolved from spaulders in the 15th century – so yes, Dredd’s shoulder armour. Who says comics aren’t educational?

For more from Tom, check out his brilliant From The Drawing Board video, read an interview with him from back in 2018, and go follow him on Twitter. Tom’s first 2000 AD cover, to Prog 1986 back in 2016, was the subject of the first 2000 AD website Covers Uncovered feature, with Pete Wells giving us the lowdown…

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2000 AD Covers Uncovered – John McCrea Rides With Dredd

Every week, 2000 AD brings you the galaxy’s greatest artwork and 2000 AD Covers Uncovered takes you behind-the-scenes with the headline artists responsible for our top cover art – join bloggers Richard Bruton and Pete Wells as they uncover the greatest covers from 2000 AD!

This week, we chat to John McCrea about his cover art for 2000 AD Prog 2224, out on shelves and in the 2000 AD web shop on March 24.

JOHN McCREA: Tharg asked me for- ‘one of Dredd racing towards us on his bike through the Mega-City traffic, if that sounds good?’

I agreed then tried some sketches (which I can no longer find as I threw them in the bin) but I couldn’t make it work ( my failing as an artist) so I decided to throw in a bunch of drug dealing perps and lots of guns and a dog and I came up with this sketch...

(Dredd, guns, guns, guns, and guns… plus a dog – the story of a McCrea cover.)

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JM: Tharg found it acceptable (no Rigellian Hotshots for me, phew!), so I inked it.

(Inky stuff from McCrea)

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JM: Then I added some digital tones- I’m a bit in love with the Kyle Webster brushes and fear I may be overusing them…. but it looked ok.

(Tones added to inks… cover more than taking shape.)

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JM: Then I asked colourist extraordinaire Enrica Eren Angiolini to colour it- these were my notes to her along with a request to keep the background bright with lots of neon...

(McCrea notes to colourist Enrica Eren Angiolini.)

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JM: Enrica’s colours were awesome so I told her to send the colours to Tharg...

(And now the full McCrea, Angiolini cover in all its glory.)

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JM: I then invoiced Tharg and received my Galactic Groats shortly after that. I spent them. Probably on comics….

Our thanks to John McCrea for sending these over – another Zarjaz cover delivered. Enjoy the comics you buy with those Groats John. Might we suggest you head to the 2000 AD web shop and pick up some goodies?

You can all get hold John’s cover for 2000 AD Prog 2224 on 24 March from all the usual places, including the 2000 AD web shop!

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2000 AD Covers Uncovered – Nick Percival Reveals The New Dark Judges!

Every week, 2000 AD brings you the galaxy’s greatest artwork and 2000 AD Covers Uncovered takes you behind-the-scenes with the headline artists responsible for our top cover art – join bloggers Richard Bruton and Pete Wells as they uncover the greatest covers from 2000 AD!

This time we chat to Nick Percival about his ssssstunning cover to Judge Dredd Megazine Issue 430 (which is out now!) and a brand new look for the Dark Judges…

Now, over to Nick…

NICK PERCIVAL: We revealed the new look Alien Dark Judges with a splash page at the end of Part 6 of ‘Deliverance’, so it made sense for the cover for Part 7 to feature them in all their glory.

We had to keep this cover image under wraps for advance orders, so this wasn’t the cover shown on order forms  – didn’t want to spoil the surprise in advance! 

Since Judge Death is on an alien planet, it made sense that the new hosts for Fear, Fire and Mortis would be alien bodies and hence the re-design. I wanted them to have that otherworldly feel and something different but still retain core elements of what the Dark Judges look like and reflect their various attributes.  

(Our first look at the new Alien Dark Judges –
from Megazine 430 – Dark Judges: Deliverance Part 7 – art by Nick Percival)

NP: Fire is a little bit more of a classic Xenomorph type creature who likes to leap onto his victims, roasting them alive. Fear has that Edvard Munch ‘The Scream’ vibe going on – His whole head and torso open up to reveal your greatest fears and Mortis is a bulkier, slovenly type beast, who not only decays his victims but eats them as well. 

You can see from the events in Part 7, that they’re much more brutal than the original versions and luckily for them, there’s an almost never-ending amount of willing victims from the Death Cult that are just lining up to be killed in all manner of gruesome, fun ways –such is the ‘life’ (death?) of a Dark Judge.  

(The Dark Judges line up for their new band photo – art by Nick Percival)

NP: So for the cover, it’s a pretty standard group shot with Death residing over them but keeps the focus where it should be.

As ever, my roughs are very loose but Tharg knows that by now. I did make one change from the sketch in the painted version with raising Death’s arms but there you go.

I have a special cover lined up for the final part but since it gives away a key element of the series and where we’ll go from there, my lips are forever ssssealed….

Thank you to Nick for giving us that fasssscinating glimpse behind his designs for those new Dark Judges. You can find that cover and Deliverance Part 7 in The Megazine 430 – make with the clicky and head to the 2000 AD web shop to get your hands on Megazine #430 from 17 March. For more from Nick in COvers Uncovered, head here for the covers process to Megazine 425.

Now… a couple of process images from that great Nick Percival cover. First the loose cover rough and then the final painted image…

Nick Percival’s cover rough to Megazine 430 –
In space, no one can hear The Dark Judges scream “You cannot kill that which doesss not live !”
Nick Percival’s final image for Megazine 430 – “The crime isss (alien) life. The sssentenssse isss death !”
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2000 AD Covers Uncovered – Simon Davis gets to the roots of Thistlebone

Every week, 2000 AD brings you the galaxy’s greatest artwork and 2000 AD Covers Uncovered takes you behind-the-scenes with the headline artists responsible for our top cover art – join bloggers Richard Bruton and Pete Wells as they uncover the greatest covers from 2000 AD!

This week, it’s 2000 AD Prog 2223, with a gorgeous but gnarly Thistlebone: Poisoned Roots cover by Simon Davis.

The first series of Thistlebone chilled us to the bone back in 2020, with writer TC Eglington and artist Simon Davis collaborating so well to give us a dark and chilling tale of folk horror madness. That first series will be released as a collection on 29 April, but before that we get to enjoy the 12-part second series, Thistlebone: Poisoned Roots that began in 2000 AD Prog 2221.

After the events of the first series, Poisoned Roots takes us back into the woods, back to the horror, as a terrible archaeological discovery in the woods uncovers ancient skeletons and evidence of ceremonial killings. With new horrors coming to light, Seema, the journalist responsible for persuading Thistlebone cult survivor Avril to return to Harrowvale in the first series, finds herself digging far deeper than she should into the mysteries surrounding the Thistlebone cult.

All of which means more chills, more terrors, and more chance to revel in the dark beauty of Simon Davis’ artwork.

In our Thistlebone interview, Simon talked a lot about his process of putting the art together, the labour-intensive old-school methods eschewing computers and embracing the joy of the paints. Everything starts with lots of reference and models for characters to produce the complete story in watercolour roughs.

After that full Thistlebone watercolour rough comic is done, he begins anew with traditional drawing, all finished off with gouache, ink and crayon on hot-pressed watercolour board.

For the latest Thistlebone cover, Simon only has one process image… the cover rough done pretty quickly…

SIMON DAVIS: I wanted this cover, like the covers on the first series’ not to be directly linked to the narrative. I prefer to do images that can be used out of context that hopefully still convey the nature of the story.

Because the early part of this story is linked to the forest and more specifically a downed tree, I felt that roots would be a good starting point. Skeletons are revealed in the first episode and a deer mask in the third so I thought a combination of the two and a unifying spinal root would make for a pleasing image.

I was also clear in my mind that a visually simple layout and composition would be ideal, so I settled on the white background. Not only does it prioritise the image, it also will hopefully be intriguing when seen on a newsagent or comic shop stand.

The rough was done quite quickly and the final image, painted in oils, stayed pretty faithful to it.

And from there, with Tharg’s approval (of course), it was time to begin the drawing and painting process again!

And for the result, check out 2000 AD Prog 2223 that you’ll see on the shelves or in the 2000 AD web shop from 17 March.

There you go, a short and sweet this week – but that doesn’t make that any less of a stunning cover!

For more on Thistlebone, be sure to check out the interview with writer TC Eglington and Simon Davis here. Thistlebone: Poisoned Roots began in 2000 AD Prog 2221 and the first volume of Thistlebone is being released as a collection on 29 April.

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2000 AD Covers Uncovered – PJ Holden’s Carlos cookie cover homage for 2000 AD Prog 2221

Every week, 2000 AD brings you the galaxy’s greatest artwork and 2000 AD Covers Uncovered takes you behind-the-scenes with the headline artists responsible for our top cover art – join bloggers Richard Bruton and Pete Wells as they uncover the greatest covers from 2000 AD!

This week we talk to PJ Holden about his cover to 2000 AD Prog 2221. A cover that’s certainly going to give long-time Squaxx dek Thargo some very familiar vibes…

Oh yes, that’s PJ doing a wonderful job of following in the footsteps of the great Carlos Ezquerra and his brilliant synthi-sausage cover to 2000 AD Prog 333, way back in September 1983.

It’s all part of the new Judge Dredd series, Who Killed Captain Cookies, beginning this Prog. Kenneth Niemand rejoins PJ to give us a classic Dredd tale of a do-gooder in Mega-City One, handing out cookies to the juve gangs to get them to change their ways.

Problem is, someone doesn’t seem to like the Captain…

Anyway, we’ll leave the fun of the storyline to you to enjoy when you pick up the Prog – and we’re certainly not going to spoil the not too surprising ending to this first episode.

Instead, we’ll share this wonderful Holden Dredd giving us his verdict…

Okay, now let’s hand over to PJ to talk us through that wonderful Ezquerra homage cover…

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PJ HOLDEN: I can’t put my hands on pencils or inks owing to the fact I think this was done in August last year? And it’s been, dear readers, a LONG one.

But here are my initial roughs followed by the notes I sent to Tharg.

A- a Watchmen spoof, with the cookie replacing the watchmen smiley face, would mean changing the dressing for 2000AD (down the side to complete the watchmen look) but might be fun.
B – Cookies, outlined in white.
C – Shadow of Dredd’s bike as he arrives on the scene, Captain dead, background people milling around.
D – Dredd looking at a cookie – partially a homage to Magritte’s The Son of Man (bowler-hatted man with an apple in front of face)
E – Dredd standing above Cookies, looking down
F – Dredd looking at cookie dripping with blood, people milling about in the background
G – Same, different angle, looking up at him. (This might work in a graphic b&w noir with red colouring for the blood of the cookie?)
H – Heroic Captain triumphant, RIP written across him
I – Close up of Captain Cookies’ corpse, Dredd looking over.

(My favourite is A – but I love a fun cover pastiche… And I also like C..)

Matt preferred Dredd holding a cookie and suggested aping the classic Carlos Ezquerra synthi-sausage cover from Prog 333.

Ok! Says I.

Did a pencil and colour rough.

Matt OK’d that and boom a cover was born.

There you go! Short and sweet this week for the Covers Uncovered, but damn, that’s a fine, fine cover.

Our thanks to PJ Holden for sending these over for our viewing pleasure

You can get hold of 2000 AD Prog 2221 on 3 March from all the usual places, including the 2000 AD web shop!

And now, of course, we’re not going to miss the chance to give you a look at the two covers together… first, the classic Ezquerra in all its wraparound glory and a zoom in on the front cover…

And finally, a little side-by-side comparison…

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2000 AD Covers Uncovered – Nick Roche’s robo-smashing, Cadet Dredd-bashing Regened cover!

Every week, 2000 AD brings you the galaxy’s greatest artwork and 2000 AD Covers Uncovered takes you behind-the-scenes with the headline artists responsible for our top cover art – join bloggers Richard Bruton and Pete Wells as they uncover the greatest covers from 2000 AD!

This week we have the wonderfully talented Nick Roche talking us through his action-packed cover to the new 2000 AD REGENED Prog 2220 – OUT NOW!!!

It looks a lot like this…

2000 AD REGENED Prog 2220 – cover by Nick Roche, colours by Gary Caldwell

Inside 2000 AD REGENED Prog 2220, you’re going to find five exciting new strips – a brand new Cadet Dredd: Suboptimal by Arthur Wyatt and Davide Tinto, Future Shocks: Geeno Firenzo by Karl Stock, Silvia Califano and three completely new strips, Action Pact: The Radyar Recovery by Mike Carroll and Luke Horsman, Viva Forever: 9 Amazing Tips by David Baillie and Anna Morozova, and Mayflies: Precious Cargo by Mike Carroll and Simon Coleby.

It’s a real Scrotnig Regened to kick off 2021’s all-ages 2000 AD selections, with a great looking cover by Nick sure to attract all those tiny Earthlets to the Zarjaz thrills of 2000 AD for years to come!

So, take it away Nick…

NICK ROCHE: I was first made aware of Tharg’s presence by an uncontrollable twitch behind my left eye. My initial thought was “That toxic paint I licked off that bootleg Transformer in 1989 has finally kicked in.” But soon I realised he was making contact telepathically. He had need of me. And who was I to refuse? (Nick Roche, Writer/Artist on Scarenthood, Transformers, and Death’s Head, that’s who!)

I had the honour of being in The Mighty One’s ‘Regened Pool’; a cadre of “talent” called upon to ensnare younger Earthlets into the realm of inescapable Thrill Power. And so Tharg was gifting me the chance to craft the cover for 2021’s first all-ages prog. A Regened Cover meant two things: Dredd, and LOTS of blank space. I was in.

The brief was thus: ” I was thinking of something like: Dredd leaping out of the way as a giant robot smashes down its fist – or along those lines.”

Getting to draw a robot AND Judge Dredd for a 2000AD cover? I would have paid for the opportunity. Unfortunately, Tharg detected my stray thought, and took me at my word. And as such, I now owe him a large amount in some obscure ultraterrestrial cryptocurrency I’ve never heard of.

Nick Roche’s first – and only – draft layout for the cover to Prog 2220

Here’s my first – and only – draft at a layout for the cover. I had asked if the cover required the uniform white background that worked so well on previous Regened covers, and Tharg had said it wasn’t essential. I thought it was a great unified bit of branding across the All-Ages issues though, so I thought I’d sell him on the idea: I’d keep the cover free of ALL background elements, and have the impact of the giant mech’s crash fists create the only definition and colour on the image, apart from the figures themselves.

I stayed close to the palette of the earlier covers, with strong vibrant colours smashing out of the crack in the ‘ground’, and intense flashlines. They’re the sort of colours and elements you don’t often see on a 2000AD cover, so I thought they’d stand out and serve their purpose by saying ‘This prog’s a little different, lads’, with Dredd and the big bot anchoring readers in more familiar territory.

This is the only prelim sketch I did for the robot too; I got a sense of what sort of imposing shape was needed right there on the page, and what proportions it would need to dominate the space on the cover, and overwhelm Dredd too.

I emailed it off to Tharg, but he reminded me that he still had control of my every waking thought and he’d seen the image before it had even entered my own cerebral cortex. I didn’t ask why he hadn’t said that earlier and saved me the bother of the sketch. It turns out, The Mighty One was “well-chuffed” with this initial layout, and I could go ahead to finish the image. This rarely happens in comics, and I was almost masochistically waiting for the multiple mental hoops Tharg would force me to hurl myself through to earn his pleasure – I’d heard so much about it all! Maybe next time, eh?

Nick Roche’s very tight pencil stage

So using the layouts, I basically went into “add detail” mode. Most of the brainwork had been done by figuring out where all the elements should be in that rough sketch. I remember focusing on Dredd first, making sure his pose remained strong and all his bits and bobs were in the right place. I saved the robot as a sort of visual ‘dessert’; the mech didn’t have to look like anything in particular, it wasn’t tied to a specific design that was to featured within, I could have fun and lose myself in its design. One of the treats in creating a one-off visual for a cover like this, is that no matter how much detail you add, you don’t need to fret about it being replicated panel-after-panel within an actual strip.

I’d made a name for myself drawing robots over the years — I’m mostly known for my Transformers work, so I know my way around hinged knuckles and extraneous panelling detail. One of my strengths honed on drawing those guys is to make the robots as readable and characterful as possible, and that was one of my aims with this guy. But I also felt duty-bound to stick to a 2000AD aesthetic with this mech.

There’s no such thing as ‘Too Subtle’ for any of the Prog-born bots, so i leaned into his dumb face and OTT chompy teeth. I think I struck the balance between giving him enough detail to make younger readers lose themselves in, and enough appealing body shapes to reassure their older guardians who will be tasked with shelling out for the comic on their behalf.

The raw inks to the characters and effects

I tend to work traditionally- on physical paper with pencils and pens – so this is a scan of my inked line-art. I drew my pencils on cheap cartridge paper, scan them into photoshop, convert the pencil lines to blue, and then print those out onto better quality Bristol Board for inking. I ink straight onto the blue-line print out, and when I scan the finished piece, I have photoshop tuned up to eliminate any of the unwanted blue marks, leaving only the pure black and white you see here. That way, I don’t have to take time to erase any of the pencil marks if I’d inked straight onto them. That’s always a time-suck, especially as you often have to go back and re-ink elements as the eraser has removed some of the ink’s intensity.

I use lots of vinyl-tipped Japanese ‘disposable brush pens’; the tips are flexible enough that be leaning into them or easing off on them, you can create different thickness of lines, while still maintaining good control. I like using these on robots and mechs, because it gives them a lively feeling, without relying on rigid lines, and that adds a little more character to them. I use fineliners for the fiddly bits, and Pentel pocket brush pens when I want a nice tapered brush stroke here and there.

The impact/flash-lines from the finished piece would normally be added to the page traditionally, but I waited until the next stage to drop those in…

Those finished inks with flashlines, flashlines, and more flashlines!

To aid the colourist (the amazing Gary Caldwell, but I didn’t know who was on duty at this stage), I dropped in the flashlines on a different layer and in a lighter tone using Manga Studio (recent versions are called ClipStudio, and it’s a great piece of kit that’s really intuitive for creating comics digitally). This would (hopefully?) make it easier for Gary to separately select them when colouring, instead of having to fiddle with the line art and extract them manually. (Also, there’s a handy tool on Manga Studio to draw lines that radiate from a specific point and move things along quicker for any Betelguesian publishing moguls.)

All that remained was for me to email it to a company called Rebellion, and a soothing sense of a job adequately abandoned that remained in my soul after Tharg severed his mindlink with me. A while later, I’d be treated to a look at Gary’s smashing colours and I join the rest of the earthlets in waiting for the latest Regened issue to pass through my letterbox. Though why all these people are in my hallway watching my front door is a mystery, and not something that was discussed with me by Tharg.

The [smashing] finished cover with colours from Gary Caldwell

Mind-link severed, Nick still has a nagging pain in his temple, far too many people in his hallway, and a very large bill in Betelgeusian crypto-funds to pay thanks to enjoying his job far too much. But fear not, Tharg is a (relatively) benevolent dictator.

So, as we leave him with Tharg’s minions knocking at the door to arrange transport to the Art Droid cells accommodation cubes and will let Nick work off his debt, let’s give our thanks to Nick for sending over those images and we’ll be looking forward to seeing his next art for 2000 AD Regened soon!

For more from Nick, you can find him on Twitter, and be sure to check out the interview he did with writer Cavan Scott about their Rogue Trooper Regened strip that ran in 2000 AD Progs 2130 and 2170… looking like this…

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2000 AD Covers Uncovered – John Higgins gives us the finale of Dreadnoughts

Every week, 2000 AD brings you the galaxy’s greatest artwork and 2000 AD Covers Uncovered takes you behind-the-scenes with the headline artists responsible for our top cover art – join bloggers Richard Bruton and Pete Wells as they uncover the greatest covers from 2000 AD!

This week we talk to John Higgins about his stunning cover to the Judge Dredd Megazine issue 429, available from 17 February with the sixth and final part of Dreadnoughts: Breaking Ground – brought to you by the creative team of Michael Carroll, John Higgins, Sally Hurst and Simon Bowland.

JUDGE DREDD MEGAZINE 429 is OUT NOW!

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Have no fear though – although it’s the finale of Breaking Ground, the series will return with a second series, The March of Progress. Mike Carroll has already turned in his script and John Higgins will be getting cracking on the art once he finishes the art for a new John Wagner-penned Judge Dredd six-parter meant for June 2021, Now That’s What I Call Justice.

So, now it’s time to luxuriate in the brilliance of John Higgins’ latest cover art…

JOHN HIGGINS: Matt Smith asked me to do a series cover rather than an episode-specific cover for the final episode of Dreadnoughts. The setting is Judge Glover standing in front of the traditional law enforcers who she and her fellow Judges are starting to replace, I felt it gave an allegorical spin to the scene and also established her as a fearless individual who leads from the front and represents the best that you can hope for in what will be a new world order.

Matt approved the very first black and white rough I did so I felt confident with the composition and focus of the image.

I painted it traditionally, using Gouache and magicolor inks on washboard, I knew Glover and the cops were going to be backlit by the flames of a city-wide riot, so to achieve a flame effect I tipped yellow, magenta and delta violet transparent inks on to a wet board and let them blend in a fractal way, one can be pleasantly surprised with how the colours intermix and form interesting shapes with little guidance.

I used gouache paint on Glover and the rioters lying in the foreground, gouache is a great paint to give a solidity to objects set against the transparent inks of the background, it really threw her forward.

I then scanned it in and finished digitally with background details, such as highlights on the riot police helmets and shields, and colour balanced the background colours, I was happy with Glover and the foreground so did little digital adjusting on that part of the painting.

Now that, I think we can all agree is a suitably stunning cover to mark the end of what has been perhaps the debut of the year. Dreadnoughts has been a story that’s firmly established itself as a favourite with fans, revealing just what it was like on the ground as the world that would become Dredd’s world changed forever, a shifting world where the rule of law is changing to the rule of the Judges.

Thank you to John for taking the time to share the work behind that great cover.

You can find Megazine issue 429 on the shelves and in the 2000 AD web shop right now!

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2000 AD Covers Uncovered: Everybody’s Gone Surfin’, Surfin’ MC-1…

Every week, 2000 AD brings you the galaxy’s greatest artwork and 2000 AD Covers Uncovered takes you behind-the-scenes with the headline artists responsible for our top cover art – join bloggers Richard Bruton and Pete Wells as they uncover the greatest covers from 2000 AD!

This week, on the cover of 2000 AD Prog 2219 we have Patrick Goddard and colourist Dylan Teague giving us a wraparound skysurfing spectacular from their Judge Dredd strip, Against The Clock.

2000 AD Prog 2219 – cover art by Patrick Goddard, colours by Dylan Teague

Patrick Goddard’s been a mainstay of both 2000 AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine since he made his double debut in November 2000 on both 2000 AD and the Megazine.

His first published work came with the John Wagner written Judge Dredd: Jimping two-parter in Megazine 3.71-3.72, quickly followed later in the same month with Sinister Dexter: Lucky in 2000 AD Prog 1220.

His crisp and super clean artwork has featured on plenty of strips since then, including Mean Machine, Young Middenface, Chopper, Savage, Sinister Dexter, Anderson, Grey Area, Armitage, Wardog, and of course Judge Dredd. Most recently, he’s been the go-to artist on Ales Kot’s recent work on the Vampire dandy extraordinaire, Devlin Waugh in the Megazine and given us more Aquila in the pages of 2000 AD where he’s most recently taken the returned from the dead gladiator down into hell in The Burning Fields.

All of which brings us up to date with 2000 AD Prog 2219, out on 17 February, with Goddard’s stunning skysurfer cover art as well as contributing the interiors for Judge Dredd: Against The Clock, where he’s twisting and turning through the skies of MC-1 for the tale of a skysurfing delivery worker.

Now, over to Patrick to tell us all about putting together this super-soaraway skysurfing cover…

PATRICK GODDARD: I drew six rough thumbnails for Matt to choose from, it was a pretty straightforward brief of having a double page wraparound cover of the skysurfer flying over an imposing Mega City 1.

SIx roughs, practically storyboards in their own right!

We went with option 2 but having her showing the baby on her back ( I was trying to hide it for the reveal in the strip).

I think I drew the city at A4 and then enlarged it to trace over using a lightbox.

MC-1 at its finest, courtesy of Patrick Goddard

I drew Mona (skysurfer) separately so I could play around with her placement over MC1, I tried a few different poses and chose the most dynamic one. 

Once it was finalised, I just had the task of drawing it! I think my eyes may have suffered a bit mind!

Now that’s putting your all into a cover!
Close-up on the inks of the cover

I knew Dylan was colouring it and he asked for any colour suggestions for Mona, so I sent some colour ideas and he worked his magic and we got the final cover, simple really.

It was nice to be asked to do a cover for a strip that I’d drawn, so you already had all the ref and a feel for the character.

Thank you so much to Patrick for taking the time here to share that absolutely gorgeous wrapround cover with us. Make sure to pick up 2000 AD Prog 2219 from the 2000 AD web shop from 17 February where you have not just the pleasure of staring in awe at that cover but also get to see Patrick and colourist Dylan Teague drawing the Judge Dredd strip inside.

As an added extra, Patrick also sent along his initial character studies of his skysurfing heroine…

For more great cover breakdowns from Patrick, be sure to check out these Covers Uncovered for Prog 2021, Prog 2185, and Prog 2205.

And you can also see and hear Patrick on the 2000 AD Thrill-Cast Lockdown Tapes where he’s talking Aquila: The Burning Fields

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2000 AD Covers Uncovered – Simon Fraser does the dirty on Frank

Every week, 2000 AD brings you the galaxy’s greatest artwork and 2000 AD Covers Uncovered takes you behind-the-scenes with the headline artists responsible for our top cover art – join bloggers Richard Bruton and Pete Wells as they uncover the greatest covers from 2000 AD!

This week we talk to the insanely talented art droid Simon Fraser, whose gorgeously muted palette of colours and striking linework is making the second series of HersheyThe Brutal – look simply stunning!

On the cover of 2000 AD Prog 2218, Fraser takes brutal to a whole new level, giving us a beaten and bloodied Dirty Frank (and canine companion)…

You can find 2000 AD Prog 2218 out on 10 February in all good newsagents and comic shops and from the 2000 AD web shop. Inside, you’ll be able to thrill to the penultimate episode of Hershey: The Brutal, written by Rob Williams, art by Simon, showing us just how bad an idea it is to get on the wrong side of the former Chief Judge.

Now, over to Simon to see just how he went about doing the dirty on poor old Frank…

SIMON FRASER: So this cover was almost comically straightforward. There’s barely a story here but I’ll stretch it out as far as I can.

Matt asked me for a cover of Frank, ” a battered looking Frank with his bare fists up, about to fight El Demonio. Can just focus on Frank, though, looking like he’s been through the mill.”

So I drew this...

It’s a reasonably polished pencil ( for me ) not a rough layout because I really don’t think there’s a lot to quibble with here and I’m under a bit of deadline pressure to finish the last two parts. If I can cut out a stage then that’s a win!

So I chuck some colour on it from the limited palette I’ve been using for the story itself. Like so…

As for my Palette for Hershey:The Brutal – it’s comically small!

All the colours of Hershey!

I basically just downloaded a couple of picture postcards of Brazil and Colombia and sampled some of the colours into a photoshop palette. I stuck to this palette for 94.7% of the time.

Occasionally I used a different tonal value of one of the palette colours. The thing about keeping things so disciplined is that when you eventually do break the rules, it’s quite shocking. For example, there’s no vivid red in the whole story (all that blood you see is purple) so when I push that right at the end, it adds an extra kick to the storytelling.

Matt gives me the ‘GO’ to do the final art based on my rough. I inked in ClipStudio, Blue-lining the pencil rough and working on it using a Pen called ‘Frenden Feathering’ which I’ve grown to love. It’s very squishy and a bit square so I can get a slightly erratic line out of it if I want, but at the same time, it does beautiful delicate feathering if required to.

The other pen I use a lot is a fineliner with a very small amount of flexibility and Stabilization turned up to 100%. I call it ‘Architecture’ and I draw buildings and machines with it. The line has some feel to it (like a fineliner pen), but stabilization keeps my hand steady enough that I don’t need to use rulers very much at all. I try and use rulers as little as possible as they can make things too rigid and tense. Anyway, I digress.

I coloured it up in my trusty old copy of Photoshop CS5. I added a bit of lens flare (don’t hate me!) and that was that, Hershey’s favourite punching bag in all his gory (not a misspelling).

And that’s it – another thrill-powered 2000 AD cover in the bag! Once more, thanks so much to Simon for sending these over to us.

That beautifully brutal Dirty Frank cover is on the front of 2000 AD Prog 2218 – and you can pick that up from the 2000 AD web shop from 10 February.

And if you’re looking for more from Simon and Hershey, check out the Covers Uncovered piece he wrote for us about the surprise return of Hershey in Disease with 2000 AD Prog 2176.

And of course, the collected Hershey: Disease comes out on 17 August 2021. You can find details of that, along with all of 2000 AD’s collections for the year here.